…20 games into the season. Nice work. Season is 1/8th over and the Blowhard is just getting around to writing about the team for the first time since the playoffs last year.
Oh well, at least it’s still April. And you know, the Celtics are (and the Bruins were) in the playoffs. Everything the Patriots do is seemingly newsworthy. Ok, enough of the excuses…
So this isn’t really a Season Preview…quite obviously. The following is a collection of thoughts about the first 20 games. In no particular order:
*I’m not sure how many times exactly so far the Red Sox have had their ideal lineup in place, but it can’t be much. Because of injury, illness (sorry Buck Showalter), bereavement and whatever else, the Sox have been shuttling players in and out of the lineup right from Opening Day. But let’s say they do have their lineup all in place one day soon. Does it scare you? Not me.
*David Ortiz is going to be a bigger loss than you think. Who is to say he would have put up monster numbers again if he stuck around in his age-41 season. No guarantees there. And he probably wouldn’t have. But where is the power this year?
*Not to mention Ortiz’ leadership. Does anyone really buy into Hanley Ramirez trying to fit into that role? Laughable. Not that he is trying to be that kind of leader. But he has made comments that he has wanted to.
*Dustin Pedroia would seem to be the “next in line” to be that guy. Makes sense. But the whole Manny Machado incident from last week leaves a bad taste in many people’s mouths…and not for Machado’s actual slide and subsequent Pedroia injury. It was how Pedroia handled the situation. Publicly slamming Matt Barnes for throwing the pitch (location and timing) and presumably management as well (specifically Manager John Farrell?), suggesting that if they were going to throw at Manny, it should’ve been done the next time he was at the dish in the series.
While Pedey may be correct in everything he said, both to Machado on the field and then after the game, it would appear that this is not the way a “leader” goes about an incident like that. Then again, when the Sox collapsed down the stretch in 2011 and cost Tito Francona his job, Pedey just watched all the antics unfold in front of him…as did the “Captain”, Jason Varitek. And Ortiz himself, for that matter. So maybe this leadership crap is exactly what it is…crap.
*I admit, when they rolled Andrew Benintendi in the 2-spot from the get-go, I did not like it. Seemed that it may put some pressure on the kid. Every other “phenom” the Sox have brought up over the years seemed to start out at the bottom of the lineup. Then eventually are moved up when they proved their mettle. But the kid is unflappable.
*Sandy Leon was a nice story for about 2 months last year. Hit everything in sight. But it’s time to give the job back to Christian Vazquez. And not because he is hitting .478. But because he appears to be all the way back from his 2015 Tommy John injury. Defensive monster. And if Blake Swihart can ever get his mojo back…
*Pablo Sandoval still stinks. And before he got hurt, his defense stunk too. But at least they have Josh Rutledge to platoon with him when the still Fat Panda is healthy. Sigh…
*Speaking of platoons, this team is going to have its problems against lefthanders it appears. Mitch Moreland has had a nice start. But looks helpless against lefties. Panda can’t hit right-handed. Rutledge? Please. Hanley refuses to play first…and the Sox are letting him get away with it. That means either Moreland or Panda has to play against southpaws, along with Rutledge. No good. Chris Young is ok against lefties and ideally he would DH and Hanley would play first and Rutledge third. Not exciting, but the best they can do. Nice leadership Hanley.
*It’s early. But Xander Bogaerts should be better than what I see.
*Who DIDN’T see the Rick Porcello regression coming?
*Steven Wright for that matter too.
*I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m not counting on seeing David Price until after the All-Star break.
*Heath Hembree has been a pleasant surprise. Joe Kelly hasn’t been horrible. Matt Barnes has been nice. But in reality, I don’t want any of these guys pitching in the 8th inning with a small lead. Or really any lead. I’ll likely be holding my breath on Tyler Thornburg and Carson Smith when (if?) they come back as well.
*What’s the purpose of having Fernando Abad on the roster?
*Or Steve Selsky?
*Pawtucket Red Sox note: Deven Marrero, the former first round pick, is 4 for 39 this year thus far. That’s .103, for those scoring at home. .253 OPS. Solid. Hit .198 all of 2016 in Pawtucket, with a .487 OPS. Is his defense really that good? He actually got a couple of days in Boston earlier this year, with the illnesses and all. I’m not sure I understand…
*Pawtucket note, Part II: Allen Craig is still alive! .211 for the PawSox thus far. My question though is…why?
*Pawtucket note, Part III…and Reason #2,567,321,956 why Spring Training stats mean nothing: Kyle Kendrick is 0-3, 8.10 in his three starts on the farm. Remember when some people were trying to make space for him in the big league rotation?
*John Farrell. It’s no secret I am not a fan. But honestly, I don’t remember being outraged at him at all this year. 20 games in, kind of surprising, I know. A lot of people were up in arms when he yanked Chris Sale in his last start when he was at 102 pitches and dominating. Then Craig Kimbrel immediately coughed up the lead and cost Sale a win. I didn’t honestly have a strong feeling about that either way. Then the Sox won the game anyway. And Kimbrel actually went 2 innings himself, something he historically does not do. Hard to really complain about that in the end.
Soon enough Farrell will piss me off. But we will cross that bridge when we get to it…
*By the way, embarrassing note: this is probably the first time in my life that someone made the Red Sox’ Opening Day roster and I had absolutely no idea who he was. Ben Taylor. Who? Well, he’s not here anymore. But he didn’t embarrass himself in his stint, that’s for sure. Didn’t even realize he was in Portland for a bit last year, or right up the street in Lowell for 4 games in 2015. Hasn’t been around for that long, but still something I’m not proud of.
*Speaking of embarrassing…and ending on this note…Taylor is ranked as the 18th best prospect for the Sox. According to MLB.com anyway. They list the top 30 prospects. Ranked at #29? Robby Scott. Yup, a 27 year old lefty specialist is on a “Top Prospect” list. Yikes!
So here we are just past the quarter pole of the Major League Baseball season. The Boston Red Sox inexplicably have a 27-17 record and are in a virtual tie for first place with Baltimore atop the AL East. I say inexplicably, because well, no one really expected this. And if anyone says they did expect it, they are blowing some serious smoke up your keister.
My wish for John Farrell being canned by Memorial Day will go unfulfilled. That wish has already gone unfulfilled for months actually. But that is besides the point. I may even have to begrudgingly admit that Farrell has done a half-decent job to this point.
Of course, that is easy to do when your offense has been off the charts the first six weeks of the season. And the bullpen has been pretty good too. So even if the starters are mediocre, and they have been, the success of the first two here can win you a lot of ballgames.
Therein lies the potential downfall of the team however. The starting rotation. David Price is 6-1, but with a 5.53 ERA. I’m not going to be too worried about him though…he should round back into form. Maybe he already has with his last couple of starts. “#2 starter” Clay Buchholz has been atrocious. And that is being kind. My feelings on Bucky have been pretty clear. But despite the talent he flashes (seemingly once in a blue moon recently), I’m not expecting much out of this bum.
Joe Kelly started the 3rd game of the season. I suppose that means he is technically the #3 guy. I don’t care about the great performance Saturday. He still stinks. I heard one “insider” say on a radio broadcast that fixing this shoulder impingement that landed him on the disabled list this season…you know, the impingement that he has had for like 8 years…will mentally free him now and he will reach his full ability. Or some garbage like that. So the “impingement” held him up for almost a decade…and he never bothered to have it fixed until now. Ok, if you say so. And we are not even sure it is even “fixed.” He is just doing different kinds of exercises, working on a program and of course taking some meds.
Rick Porcello is 7-2, 3.47. Wow. We will take that from him. Sad that we will “take” a 3.47 ERA from a 20 plus million dollar pitcher. But that’s unfortunately where we are at. The team’s best starter this year, Steven Wright, (3-4, 2.52), is a knuckleballer. We’ve seen this movie before with Tim Wakefield. This performance will not likely hold up.
What’s beyond that? Other than Eduardo Rodriguez, really nothing. Henry Owens? William Cuevas? Sean O’Sullivan? Yikes!! Can’t even talk about Brian Johnson now, as he has been placed on the inactive list in Pawtucket to deal with anxiety issues. As for E-Rod (I actually hate calling him that, but the name has caught on), can we even count on him now? He is due to start Tuesday for the PawSox on another rehab outing. But how long will this go on? Seems like the rehab has lingered on for a while. Some setbacks. Some vagueness. Some overprotection. I actually don’t expect to see him until after the All-Star break. Or until Bucky inevitably goes on the DL. Or, the most likely scenario…when Wright gets shelled a couple of times in a row. At that point, Farrell will have his excuse to push Wright back to long relief, saying some nonsense about how “Steven gives us a lot of flexibility out of the ‘pen…” Even if it is only 2 bad starts out of like 15. But none of the other guys are really candidates to move to the bullpen. Except maybe Kelly, but they have been clear they won’t move him there. So we’ll just have to deal with whatever happens when Eduardo is finally ready. I wouldn’t be shocked if that turns out to be 2017.
Any way you slice it, a lot of question marks in the rotation the rest of the way. Yes, we knew this from the get-go. But now after the hot start, hopefully there is more urgency to supplement the talent there going forward.
And now with the news today about Carson Smith needing Tommy John surgery and being done for the year, is the bullpen in the same boat as the rotation? Meaning, do they need some urgency to supplement the talent there as well?
Even if Smith was healthy, my answer would be…you can’t ever have enough bullpen arms. Looking at it from the beginning, Smith, Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa and Craig Kimbrel are a solid back-end. Not Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances for the Yankees, but still pretty good. Robbie Ross Jr. is decent enough and you could do worse with Tommy Layne as a lefty specialist. That leaves anyone as the 12th pitcher…since that’s what every team has anyway. In addition to “anyone” as their 13th-20th pitchers.
But now? Smith is done. Koji is not quite the same guy…to be expected at his age of course. Because of this, it’s only a matter of time before Farrell throws Tazawa every day and burns him out. Old habits die hard. So then what? Ross, Layne, Matt Barnes, Heath Hembree, Roenis Elias, Pat Light…mediocrity at its finest. IF they are lucky that is.
Lastly, the offense. Incredible thus far. No other way to explain it. The most amazing aspect really has to be that Hanley Ramirez seems to care! But there’s where the questions start. How long will THAT last? Who the hell knows? As long as they are winning, I don’t expect his attitude to change. But with him…ugh…let’s not even think about it…
So we all know the offense can not likely keep up the pace they are at. Actually, it wouldn’t surprise me if the players above Hanley in the lineup did actually keep playing at a high level: Mookie Betts, Dustin Pedroia, Xander Bogaerts & David Ortiz. But then again, Pedroia has battled injuries in recent years. And we are all still hoping Big Papi doesn’t pull a “Rafael Palmeiro” in his last year…getting busted for PED’s. Please just make it through this year without a failed test Big Guy. Please and thank you.
I think we still do have to show some concern with the last 4 spots in the order however. Ok, you will say, “last 4 spots in the order, if all we have to only worry about those guys, we should be ok.” I would say, sure, to a point. But the Sawx will still need something out of those dudes. And I have my questions.
If the season ended today, Jackie Bradley Jr. would likely get MVP votes. Seems incredible, eh? But true. I may be one of the few left in this camp, but I am still not convinced he has completely figured out major league pitching. Call me an idiot if you like, but we have seen him go through stretches like this before. It would not shock me one bit to see him go something like 15-100 with 45 K’s in the month of June alone. He’s either been awesome or horrendous for stretches in the majors…no in-between. With his glove, I’d take the in-between. I still think it remains to be seen if he has finally crossed that line. Sorry.
On a lesser scale, same with Travis Shaw. With the Fat Panda out for the year, there is no real competition. And there hasn’t been really since he won the job. Of course, he has been a pleasant surprise and is still playing well. But there is also no track record with him either. I hope he continues to hit. I’m just not certain of it. It’s a long season.
I guess I am not worried about Christian Vazquez’ hitting. Pretty much anything you get from him offensively is a bonus. But if the lineup suffers as a whole…it looks a lot worse.
I’m keeping an eye on left field. My feeling is that you are looking at a change here. Brock Holt won the job coming out of Spring Training, as one side of a platoon with Chris Young anyway. I’m not sure when he got his latest concussion, but it may have “helped” the team in a way. The Brockstar seemed to be a little exposed playing almost every day, as much as I love the dude. Once the Sox sent down Blake Swihart and threw him in LF in the minors, I kind of felt like he would be playing there in the majors soon enough. Just a hunch. Partly because they had decided on Vazquez behind the plate. But perhaps also partly to show some versatility as a piece in a future deal?
In any event, now that the door has opened for Swihart in LF now, I feel like he will stay there when Holt comes back. Holt will go back to the utility role that he has been successful at. And he will still get plenty of at-bats. I would also say Holt getting another concussion is something to monitor. He may not even be back soon. Brock was sidelined for over a month at the end of 2014 with one. And now he has another. This is baseball, not football. Something to watch.
This team has been very fun to watch the first part of the season. I don’t mean to throw a wet blanket over the situation. But I have found myself also waiting for the proverbial “other shoe to drop” with regards to them. I don’t see them sustaining their success…unless Dave Dombrowski steps in and wheels and deals. Can’t rule that out, but quiet so far.
Ssssooooo…I am not apologizing for any of my early season hesitations and negativity…yet…
Continuing on…picking up at 2-2, bottom of fifth:
*Sweet play by Mookie Betts to start the bottom of the inning. Thought he may have misplayed a solid liner to right off the bat of Rajai Davis. Ended up making the grab with a small leap at the end. I worry about his arm in RF, but he should cover a ton of ground. Goes without saying I suppose. And the more he plays out there, obviously the better and smoother he will get. Probably goes without saying again…
*First grounder to Hanley! Slow roller…taken to the bag himself without incident. Phew. But still waiting for the first hard hit ball to him. Or a throw in the dirt. Come to think of it, Travis Shaw has not had one hit to him yet.
*David Price’s favorite music artist is Young Jeezy. Coincidentally, me too!!
*Jerry Remy has lost 20 lbs since November by just “eating half-portions of meals”. Good to know. I’m sure that’s all it was.
*SHAWSIE!! Another single. Nice of Hanley to take the extra base from first to third. But it wasn’t exactly the best move, though it worked. In analyzing the play, Remy wondered if Butterfield gave Hanley a signal to come to third. He didn’t. What Remy failed to point out is that Hanley wouldn’t have listened to Butter anyway. Side note: Still haven’t seen any shots of Fat Panda in the dugout.
*BROCKSTAR!! RBI single to make it 3-2 Sox. Again, Farrell is a genius!! Incidentally, no shots of Rusney Castillo in the dugout either.
*You think Ned Yost will pick Holt for the All-Star game again this year?
*TIIIIIITTTTOOOOO!! It was definitely time for Tito to go in Boston. Things had run their course with him managing. But it still leaves a bad taste in my mouth how they kind of smeared him on his way out of town. He deserved better. I think you can pretty much say the same about Claude Julien when he gets fired soon. Hopefully he won’t get bad-mouthed like Tito was.
*First grounder to Shaw. Nice pick. Solid throw to Hanley. Slow runner in Carlos Santana, but still, as routine as you get.
*103 pitches, 6 innings, 2 runs, 10 K’s for Price. Was hoping to get 7 out of him, but it will do for today. Now let’s see if Junichi Tazawa’s arm has recovered from extreme overuse in prior years.
*Dustin Pedroia is 0-4. I wonder if he sucks to start the year and if Holt continues with his strong starts he’s had the previous 2 years, Farrell has the sack to switch them in the lineup? Holt 2nd and Pedroia 7th? I think Hell would have to freeze over for Farrell to make THAT switch. But worth noting. Listen, I don’t hate Pedroia. But he has been injury-prone, obviously. And is not the MVP he once was. But he should not be exempt from any move of this sort…if the goal is to truly win games.
*Joba Chamberlain sighting! He looks a little thinner I think. Not tough to do, of course. But maybe my eyes are going…
*Nice…more excuses for Hanley’s poor year last year: “pull-happy, homer-happy, injured shoulder”, yada, yada, yada.
*SHAWS…nevermind. Sacks juiced, K looking. Was a smidge outside and thus borderline. But still…
*BROCKST…nevermind. Liner to third with sacks juiced still. Both Shaw and Holt had a chance to break this thing open. Maybe Farrell isn’t a genius? Ok, kidding all around. It’s one game either way. Let’s see how it plays out long-term.
*12 pitch 1-2-3 inning for Tazawa. Encouraging. But Juan Uribe, Tyler Naquin (first major league at-bat) and Rajai Davis…not exactly Murderer’s Row. Let’s wait it out to see how he is after Farrell either warms him up or pitches him in 25 games in April.
*Chamberlain in the game now. I think he IS actually skinnier. But it appears that he sucks worse than ever now. 6 games with KC last year and an ERA close to 8.00. Many other games with Detroit and an ERA close to 5.00. Maybe he should start eating again to put some of that weight back on? Or at least hang out with Panda after every game this series to get started on that?
*Ok, thanks for the reminder that Clay Buchholz is starting tomorrow. Just ruined my night.
*Here’s Koji Uehara now. Love this guy, have since the day the Sox got him. But similar to Tazawa, let’s see how much he has left from a couple of years of severe overuse.
*Just learned that Koji ranks #1 career in WHIP. Craig Kimbrel is #2. Impressive. But admittedly not a lot of innings there for either.
*This is not a repeat. 12 pitch 1-2-3 inning for Koji. A little tougher road to hoe though in Jason Kipnis, Francisco Lindor and Mike Napoli though. So a little more impressive. But again, let’s see what happens when Farrell leans on him too much again.
*Mike Napoli may pummel the home plate umpire at the end of the game. 3 K’s. But they were all pretty good at-bats. And questionable strike calls throughout all the AB’s. He had some sort of a case, I do admit. But I say if they were that close, swing the bat already. Questionable ball/strike calls on the Sox side as well. In fact, Xander just took a called third strike way outside. Maybe John Hirschbeck is cold and wants to go home.
One thing is for sure, you couldn’t pay me enough to be an on-field official in any sport. Not with the hundreds of camera angles and slow motion replays that are available now to make you look like an idiot after any wrong call. I say they all do a pretty good job, based on the circumstances. There are very few calls that are egregious mistakes in real time. We can certainly bash officials for those particular ones though.
*Big Papi homers…nice. Then Hanley THINKS he homers. And watches at the plate as it hits the top of the wall. So he gets only a single. At least Remy finally says something about him not running. Kind of tame though.
*Top of the ninth…and first shot of Pablo Sandoval in the dugout!! Just kind of sitting there. No sub. No crumbs on his face. No phone. Kind of disappointing in those regards. But he does look cold, I’ll give him that. All wrapped up nice and snug.
*Craig Kimbrel’s debut for the Sox. Not a save situation. But glad to see Farrell didn’t warm him up in the ‘pen only to leave him there. Like I said, no Noe Ramirez for me today. Anyway, 19 pitches, worked around a walk and got yet another questionable third strike call to end the game. 6-2 Sox. I’ll take it!
That about does it from here. I think my fingers are tired. But despite my pessimism of the upcoming Boston Red Sox season, it is ALWAYS good to win on Opening Day. And Home Opening Day, which they hopefully will do next week.
Baseball is BACK! I just hope the Sox don’t ruin my summah too early again this year…